FALL RIVER, MASS. (WHDH) - Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday explained that the businesses that are “most likely to be successful” in reopening without further spreading the coronavirus could be given the green light to open their doors next week but he also stressed that Massachusetts’ path to a new normal will present an “uncomfortable” test of patience for many residents.
While speaking during a news conference at a drive-through testing site at Stanley Street Treatment and Resources in Fall River, Baker reminded residents who are eager to get back out into society to be respectful of the fact that 3,000 COVID-19 patients remain hospitalized across the state and that about 1,000 people are still fighting for their lives in the ICU.
“I would love to be able to open up everything tomorrow,” Baker said. “But that would be an incredibly irresponsible thing to do.”
For weeks now, Baker has repeatedly stressed that the state needs to see a sustained two-week drop in new positive coronavirus cases, new hospitalizations, and a decline in fatalities. He’s also spoken to the absolute need to increase testing capacity before a reopening plan can be executed in a safe fashion.
While the state is taking steps each day to boost testing capacity and its contact tracing program, key coronavirus data trends have fluctuated on a day-to-day basis.
Baker announced that the state is averaging between 8,000 and 15,000 tests each day — a number that will continue to expand.
“We are now at one of the top per-capita testing rates in the country,” Baker said. “If Massachusetts was a country, we’d be one of the highest per capita countries in the world.”
The state’s non-essential business closure order and stay-at-home advisory are slated to expire May 18, but at this point, Baker has given no indication as to whether they will be lifted.
“This isn’t going to be a situation or a circumstance where on May 18 every business in Massachusetts that is currently closed is going to be permitted to open,” Baker said. “It’s not going to work like that and it shouldn’t work like that.”
Given all the suffering, death, and lost wages that residents of the Commonwealth have been forced to endure since the start of the outbreak, Baker said the last thing his administration wants to do is open the economy in a way that “fires the virus up again.”
“When we reopen, we’re going to want to be able to sustain that reopening over time,” Baker said.”That’s going to mean what I refer to as sort of a slow roll right out of the gate.”
While he did not say exactly what businesses could reopen on Monday, Bake did explain what types of establishments could get the nod to commence operations under “Phase 1” of the state’s four-phase plan to a new normal.
“The businesses that we are going to reopen are those that are most likely to be successful in reopening without spreading the virus,” Baker explained. “That means the kind of organizations that don’t have a lot of close contact with customers or the kind of organizations that are designed in such a way so their ability to execute on a strategy around distancing would be relatively uncomplicated for them to do.”
The state’s Reopening Advisory Board is expected to present its full report listing every business that they have permitted to reopen on Monday. Until then, Baker said he will not reveal any additional information.
“I want this to be done in a deliberate way and you don’t do something in a deliberate way if you start leaking it out and issuing it out before you actually release the report,” Baker said. “I don’t want the so-called starting gun to go off today or tomorrow. I want it to go off on Monday, and I want it to go off in a targeted and phased way.”
Essential businesses that have been opened will continue to keep functioning as they have been.
Baker urged all residents to think about where they want to be when summer starts to kick into full swing, not where they want to be a few days down the road.
“This is not a virus to be trifled with or disrespected and I think it’s important for everybody to understand that,” Baker said. “I get the fact that that’s going to lead to a level of sort of patience associated with this that will make people uncomfortable.”
Baker added that he simply wants to reopen Massachusetts in a way that makes it possible to be successful.
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